Quick Shot: Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt

Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt | Scribner, 2013I don’t write about it often here but I love Dungeons and Dragons. I’m a relative newcomer to the D&D having picked up the game just around when the third edition of the game was released in the 90s. I played with a group of friends in high school, continuing that game through college; until life got in the way. I played and DMed throughout college enjoying a handful of different campaigns (and finally branching out beyond D&D). When I started graduate school and worked part-time at a book store I met another group and once again began to play D&D. We still have a regular game on an (almost) weekly basis. That weekly game has morphed over the years as more and more people were brought into the fold. It is often a bit of an unmanageable mess. The eleven odd players and innumerable distractions brought on by both life and 21st century technology mean it is a far cry from the game of D&D I remember from the past. Of Dice and Men describes the history of the game from early beginnings, delves a bit into the nature of role playing in its various forms, and is every inch a love letter to the game of Dungeons and Dragons.

Of Dice and Men isn’t an exhaustive, comprehensive history. A bit more focused than Ethan Gilsdorf’s Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks and not as scholarly as Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World, Of Dice and the Men is none-the-less an entertaining and engaging read. In addition to covering the early days of Dungeons and Dragons, Ewalt’s takes several pit-stops along the way delving into the wargaming simulations that served to inspire Dungeon’s and Dragons and LARPing (Live Action Roleplaying) that has been inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. They are interesting diversions that illustrate and illuminate fascinating communities whose enthusiasm mirror that of Dungeon’s and Dragons fans across the world.

While I already know much about D&D Of Dice and Men covers much of the history of the game that I am unfamiliar with. I’m not typically a fan of non-fiction, often quickly losing interest, but Ewalt’s interstitials describing his own home D&D game provided an engaging bit of narrative to keep me going (while simultaneously making me feel a tad guilty about how lazy and lackluster my own gaming style has become). As I said, if you are look for an exhaustive history of D&D than this isn’t the book for you, but if you are looking for a popular history of the game and some of the communities it has spawned or spawned from then Of Dice and Men is the book for you.

Web Therapy: DM Burnout

This topic discussed quite a bit across the web but believe it or not this is the first time I’ve really run up against it myself. It’s one of those things that started slowly but has snowballed over the recent months. I don’t know how obvious my weariness is to my players but every time I sit down to DM now I cringe to think that my ennui is showing. Part of it is time, it’s weird but I feel like I had more time for gaming when I was in college with a full load of courses. When confronted with the choices of prep for a game, read, play a video game, or go for a run it almost pains me to say that prepping for a D&D is often the lowest on that list. (That’d be Symptom #3 on this list).

I think I’m at a point where my frustration with myself is starting to morph into frustration with my players. It often feels between the painting of miniatures, perusal of smartphones, and frequent nonsequitor conversations that people are often as disinterested in gaming as I am in running the game. I’d love to be able to say to myself that this purely a reflection of my own dissatisfaction but another part of me, which I do my best to silence, takes it a bit personally. It creates this vicious infinite loop that does little to help resolve the situation. (That’d be Sympton #6).

Every article I’ve looked at tells me the same thing: walk away from the GM’s seat. A part of me desperately clings to this campaign; particularly since things are close to a really good end game. If things are going to end properly for this campaign though I think I need to be as fresh faced and excited as I can and truthfully I’m just not there. I’m a little worried that if I walk away now we’ll never come back to it. There is a rational part of my brain that says that the notion of giving up shouldn’t bother me so much but the completionist part of my pysche is screaming in defiance.

Scrapped Post: D&D Video Games MIA?

UPDATE:  During the WotC New Products seminar at GenCon 2010 an attendee, after asking about new video games, was told:
“Atari has an announcement coming about some kind of D&D video game but they couldn’t talk about it here.”

source:  http://critical-hits.com/2010/08/07/gen-con-2010-dd-new-products-seminar/

After a draft post sits in wordpress for a while there comes a point when I don’t see the point of posting it, or I can’t think of a good way to finish it off so it just sits there.  Rather then let it sit there gathering dust I’ll occasionally pull it out and post it here.  I started this one last week and felt it was just a kind of meandering rant with no real worth.  With that said, enjoy!

So what happened to the D&D video game license?  Since roughly 1988 and release of Pool of Radiance there has a been stream of Dungeons and Dragons video games many good and some not-so-good.    Indeed back in 2004 GameSpy even did a 5-Part History of D&D Video Games series during the franchises’ 30th Anniversary.  Last year Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online went to a free-to-play model and that was the biggest D&D video game news we’ve seen in a long while.  Indeed, there have been no new  announcements about development of any games of any kind in long long time.

The last non-MMO D&D game to see a major release was Neverwinter Nights 2 in 2006 (and the mostly forgotten D&D Tactics in 2007) with expansions and/or adventure packs release every 12 months since: Mask of the Betrayer in 2007, Storm of Zehir in 2008, and Mysteries of West Gate in 2009.  That last, however, is something of a fallacy since the adventure pack, developed by Ossian Studios was completed in 2007 and was delayed due to issues with DRM.  With the video-game like and streamlined 4th Edition rules released in 2008 one might have expected some announcement as to a new game in development, but nothing has been said so far.

The answer  I suspect is December 2009 lawsuit between Hasbro (owners of Wizards of the Coast) and Atari.  There have no new details I can find since the original suit was filed.  The gist of the case, as it stands, being that 34% of  Atari Europe is owned by Hasbro competitor Namco Bandai allegedly including 4 subsidiaries involved in the active development in D&D video games, as originally reported over at Ars Technica.  I’ve yet to see any news on what is happening or has happened with that case and given that Hasbro seems to be trying to get the license back from Atari I’m betting that’s why we haven’t seen or heard anything about games.

It was also recently announced that Warner Bros acquired Turbine, Inc. and thus Dungeons and Dragons Online.   I’m fairly certain that DDO is still made under the Atari license, but other then licensing I have no idea how much Atari actually contributes to development.  So as far as I can tell that the D&D license is given to Atari, who contracts with Turbine to make DDO, who is then acquired by Warner Bros.  Maybe I’m missing something, but it just seems a bit bizarre.

I cast magic missile on the darkness

So as all true nerds know, 4th Edition for D&D is on the horizon.  I’m not precisely sure what all of the new features and changes will be.  (I do know that grappling is on the list though.  Presumably the changes will make is so that grappling is no longer the equivalent of a cleveland steamer in both enjoyment and usefulness.  This might be achieved by limiting the amount of dice rolls needed to less than the current number, which gets dangerously close to that of Amedeo Avogadro.)  Regardless, those changes are probably best covered by other, more knowledgeable, people on this site.  I’m just here to talk about the advertising.

Wizards of the Coast apparently approached the guys from PvP and Penny Arcade and asked them to do something cool to advertise the game.   Being webcomics, the fact that comic strips/panels were part of the end product isn’t particularly suprising.  But the comics are really just supplementing a pretty interesting advertising campaign.  They just played the game.  Wizards literally just provided a DM and everyone played 4th edition while a camera was recording the action.  The podcasts are being put up on the Wizards site each week and apparently it covers a lot of the new changes in the gameplay.  I haven’t gotten a chance to check it out yet so I don’t know if the result is something enjoyable or tediously boring.  But any attempt to sell a product by actually showing the audience the product in question rather than through the gaming industry’s normal smoke and mirrors routine is worthwhile endeavor.